UAF BLaST October scientist of the month: Maegan Weltzin, faculty pilot project awardee

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By Amy Topkok

Maegan Weltzin is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and is a BLaST Faculty Pilot Project awardee. She earned both her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology and a B.S. in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry from UAF, and completed her postdoctoral training at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. Weltzin enjoys outdoor adventuring including skiing, hiking, camping, and canoeing.

Maegan Weltzin

Weltzin recognizes that successful student mentoring is key to a constructive and rewarding mentor-mentee relationship, as well as a productive lab. She works with each of her mentees to ensure they understand their projects and learn what they need to be a successful researcher. Students are encouraged to present their findings at regional and international meetings including the INBRE Retreat and Society of Neuroscience Annual Meetings. Since joining UAF in 2017, Weltzin has mentored nine undergraduate students and three graduate students. Her undergraduates include BLaST Scholars Brianna Lu and past Scholar Shelly Thao (both past UREs), and Undergraduate Research Experience (URE) awardees Bryant Griffith, James McKay, Chanta Spain, and Shane Bennett (Spain and Bennett were past UREs).

Research in the Weltzin lab is centered on defining the role of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in disease conditions, including epilepsy, and nAChRs involvement in viral infection, specifically rabies and COVID-19. An evolving third research area is developing nAChR subtype selective ligands (small molecules) and peptides for use in treating diseases that have nAChRs including epilepsy, nicotine addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, and possibly specific viral infections. Her lab uses molecular biology, cell culture, and electrophysiology techniques.

Weltzin teaches numerous courses including Introduction to Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (CHEM 104), General Chemistry I (CHEM 105), Information Storage and Transfer: Molecules and Pathways (CHEM 450). At the graduate level, she teaches Protein Structure and Function (CHEM 654), and Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience (CHEM 460/670). In her courses, Weltzin encourages students to be highly engaged and to be able to apply the course material to everyday lived experiences. She utilizes active learning strategies including peer-to-peer learning and open discussions and encourages student engagement by creating a welcoming learning environment.

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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